The film had a hard time in finding a distributor. When filming finally began, New Line Cinema was the distributor, but they dropped the film from distribution when they saw an early cut. It later got a limited cinema run, through a small independent distributor, before finally making a big premiere on the Showtime Entertainment TV channel.
Jeremy Irons originally turned down the role because he knew playing this character would hurt his career. After thinking it over and being convinced by Glenn Close that working with Adrian Lyne was an experience he should not missed, he agreed to play Humbert Humbert, not before securing a good paycheck anticipating a few years of possible unemployment.
Due to considerable difficulty in securing an American distributor, the film had a very limited theatrical run in order to qualify for award contention. The final domestic gross income was over $1.1 million on a $62 million budget.
Melanie Griffith plays the mother of Lolita, but in real life it was a young Melanie who went off with an older man. When she was just fourteen she fell in love with her mother's co-star (Don Johnson) and the two pursued a relationship.
More explicit versions of the comic book and the Lake Point Cottages scenes were submitted to the British Board of Film Classification in 2000 for inclusion as extras on the region 2 DVD. The BBFC refused certificates for the scenes, noting that they would not have been passed if they were included in the film, and were especially problematic out of context.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Frank Langella discovered belatedly that director Adrian Lyne had kept a full-frontal nude-shot of him (during Quilty's death scene), and left it in the movie. Langella was furious with Lyne over what happened; he still gets embarrassed talking about it.